Why Mental Health IS A Municipal Concern

Why Mental Health IS a Municipal Concern – By Natalie Harris (Ward 6 Barrie City Councillor Candidate)

Mental wellness is important to all of us – that probably goes without saying. Our ability to enjoy the services this great City of Barrie has to offer depends on every citizen’s mental health. And as a Ward 6 Barrie City Councillor candidate, I would like to take this opportunity to shine a light on why mental health IS a municipal issue. Yes, I am aware that large health-care funding and plan approvals are done at the provincial level, but thinking that this is a provincial issue alone, in my opinion, is incorrect.

Did you know that partnerships and resource sharing occur at every level of government? Task forces and committees are developed continually, which include numerous stakeholder classifications, in order to improve communication and awareness-raising with respect to many municipal concerns/needs. Furthermore, the City of Barrie works with existing legislative and policy frameworks, to develop complex strategies.

An example of this type of collaboration exists through the, “The Affordable Housing Strategy”. To implement this Strategy, the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee was formed. This Committee is comprised of six municipal representatives and six non-municipal representatives; including one representative from the City of Barrie. The Committee operates under an approved Terms of Reference with the purpose to “…provide advice for Council’s consideration regarding the implementation of the “Our Community 10 Year Affordable Housing and Homelessness Strategy…”. (Affordable Housing Strategy – A 10-Year Plan. February 2015).

In fact, the following existing legislative and policy frameworks used to develop the City of Barrie Affordable Housing Strategy include:

  • Federal Legislation National Housing Act R.S.C., 1985
  • Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC)
  • Provincial Policy Statement 2014 (PPS)
  • Ontario Planning Act Resident’s Rights Act (1994)
  • The Strong Communities Through Affordable Housing Act Ontario Municipal Act, 2001
  • City of Barrie Official Plan City of Barrie Zoning By-law
  • Property Standards By-law

Municipal mental wellness projects absolutely exist. An example of this is the shared facility, ‘The Barrie Pathways’, which was developed in collaboration with health related service representatives from City Council, Simcoe County, and other levels of government.

“Successful Trillium Foundation funding allowed for a project management team to be selected and retained to collaborate with partner agencies and work on the planning process for the selection of a shared facility location and a governance model. The Barrie Pathways was formed and includes such organizations as the David Busby Street Centre, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Barrie Out of the Cold, the John Howard Society and Simcoe Community Services.” (Barrie Pathways – Shared Social Services Facility – 2.5.8 Affordable Housing Strategy)

As a retired paramedic and mental health advocate, I have witnessed first-hand, and participated in, the successful collaboration of various stakeholders in order to have the provincial PTSD Bill 163 and the Federal PTSD Bill C-211, reach royal assent (made law). I believe in a team approach to all issues. In order to create the most effective policies, many voices at all levels of government, as well as the voices of its citizens, need to be heard. The passing of these Bill’s was made possible be the transparency and fluidity of ideas and strategies, and as Ward 6 Barrie City Councillor, that is what I will continue to foster.